We steered the Forester along around 500 kilometres of paved road, gravel back roads and deeply rutted and muddy trails and were impressed by its versatility.

High River, Alberta — Locals rarely use the F word any more here in rough and ready cowboy country, 50 kilometres south of Calgary.

That being the five-letter curse word ‘flood’, rather than the four-letter Anglo Saxon swear word more commonly heard in adult company. Back in June 2013, the Highwood River burst its banks and submerged huge areas of this southern Alberta community. Three people lost their lives, more than 13,000 residents were evacuated, more than 5,000 homes and business properties were damaged and in some cases destroyed. In excess of 170,000 converged on the small town and spent six months cleaning up the ugly mess.

This is a family town, in which people look out for and look after their neighbours, and it has undergone a remarkable revival. Its team spirit inspired Subaru Canada – one of the smaller auto manufacturers – so much that it chose the location to launch the 2017 Forester.  Thoughtfully, Subaru invited a crew of auto writers from across Canada to share this success story.

We drove through the areas most damaged by the flood – whoops, sorry to use the F word – and marvelled at the building boom. The number of open-for-business signs on stores, was impressive, some of which had doors scarred by ‘tide’ marks where floodwaters once lapped.

Subaru also believes its sport ute suits the outdoors lifestyle of the folks that are proud to call High River home. No fancy presentation centre for this launch; no, we entered the Bob Snodgrass Recreation Centre, where the townsfolk and their kids compete and play. The darkened ice rink was perfect for demonstrating the headlights that mimic watchful human eyes, swinging from side to side, perfectly synchronized to directional changes. That’s standard fare on the Limited model and smart fog lights are an option on other trims. The Forester is the first in the lineup to feature the third-generation of EyeSight, with upgraded camera and software, which improves pre-collision braking and ensured lane keep assist puts you back on track when or if you stray over the line .

Thousands of children are killed or seriously injured annually, when drivers back over an unseen toddler. Typically, such tragedies occur in the family driveway. Family conscious Subaru has an app for that: rear-mounted sensors detect the youngster and the car grinds to an absolute halt. Outside the rink we lined up to try out the magic eye, part of the Technology package. (No child was hurt in the demonstration or in indeed its garbage can substitute!)

Before heading to the great outdoors, a local family loaded up the Forester with hockey gear and all manner of other family baggage and then mom, dad and the kids piled in ready for the road. Or, in our case, off-road. My drive partner and I (maybe that should be pardner) headed for the hills, sampling highway performance on the way. The four-cylinder Boxer engine gets you up to speed at perfectly acceptable family pace – it’s not a race! The cabin quietness is exceptional.

We steered the Forester along around 500 kilometres of paved road, gravel back roads and deeply rutted and muddy trails and were impressed by its versatility. My goodness, the continuously variable transmission technology has come a long way to its early days when one was never sure if it would select the appropriate gearing and maintain it when necessary.  The coup de grace was an auto-controlled descent down a slippery 35-degree slope, thanks to the X-Mode. Then the tires got a wash as we splashed through a stream. Likely the last time a brand new family-owned Forester would be required to show its off road cred! Time to chow down at the local ranch.

The 2017 Forester has nine trims available – a great deal of choice – that start at $25,995 for the 2.5i with six-speed manual transmission (unique among all-wheel drives) and range to $39,495 for the 2.0XT Limited with Technology package. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder boxer engine generates 170-horsepower while the 2.5-litre, twin-scroll turbocharged alternative power plant develops another 100 horses.

The manual tranny is available in the base 2.5i and the 2.5i Touring package, while the rest pf the trims use a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Hill Descent Control and X-Mode are standard on all CVT-equipped models.

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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